Saturday, July 30, 2005

Continuum 3 - Part 1

Warning: This post (and probably every other Continuum post that I'll write) is the work of an unrepentant Neil Gaiman fangirl. Read on at your own peril...

As I sat in the first panel of the first convention I have ever attended, I took a quick look around, and was surprised by the number of people with pads and pens, scribbling notes. "Why?" I thought. This is a convention. We're here to attend panels, get drunk, meet new people and generally hang out with other geeks in a geek friendly environment. Why take notes?

Now, sitting down to recap my experiences at Continuum 3, I've realised why. So much goes on at a convention, so much information is received and passed on, that you have to take notes to remember anything at all.


Well, I'll do my best....

When I first heard about Continuum 3, from Neil Gaiman's journal, I knew I had to go. Neil Gaiman! Poppy Z Brite! How could I not? So I drafted Nebuloid into coming with me, we decided to stay at the Hilton on the Park (where the convention was being held), and we became Continuum members. Nebuloid arrived earlier on the Thursday evening than I did, and set out to see a preview of Sin City with other conventioneers. I got into Melbourne quite late and settled into our room, nervous and unsure about what one should do at a convention....


We were through registration really quickly - due to being in the hotel and also up very early. We got a convention showbag and a groovy nametag thingy. When we were going through the showbag I jokingly wondered aloud if there would be a Firefly/Serenity promo in there - just as Nebuloid silently held up an 11th hour flyer. Tee hee. Them Browncoats get into everything, I tells ya.

Off to the first panel (well, not really. We missed the Doctor Who panel. Oops), to get into the swing of things.

Weird History: A little myth, some of the odder detail of actual and imagined history (and how it comes into being).
Held in a little room, which was crammed with such a range of people. Not at all what I expected. I don't know what I had expected. Maybe a whole bunch of geeks in Spock ears? Nah, not really. Nebuloid and I sat against a wall to the right of the panel, and I was impressed with Nebuloid throwing herself right into the fray by asking a couple of questions of the panel, making some comments.

We stayed in the room for Evolution of the Fictional Vampire: From Lord Ruthven to Saint-Germain. Now, I'm a big vampire literature/telly/movie fan (No, really?), but I have to admit, I had read neither the Lord Ruthven nor Saint-Germain stories. Oops again. But the panel wandered through most mediums and stories, and as I have been fascinated by what the vampire has represented over time, and why it has such staying power, I found the panel really interesting. I even asked a question! I was very nervous, and my voice was extremely shaky, and I did go on a bit, but the panel took the question/comment and ran with it, so that was cool.

This was also the panel where I first encountered Richard Harland, who is my great discovery from Continuum 3. I had never heard of him before, and I would not have been very likely to read any of his stuff, because, well, I'm not very good at exploring new things. But his enthusiasm and passion and general likeability and fluffiness - well, I fell in love, and am determined to read his work. More on his antics later...

I bumped into a friend from Brisbane on our way out for a walk - Nebuloid and I ended up spending a lot of time with her and her friends throughout the convention. As she said hi, though, I had one of those awful moments when I could not, for the life of me, place her name nor her place in my life (Sorry!!) Of course, as soon as she said Brisbane, I realised that this was the woman who had introduced me to Zombies!!!, and thus changed my life irrevocably and for the better.

(Nebuloid: "I wondered how long it would take until you bumped into someone you knew. You seem to know people everywhere". ZuckerBaby: "Yeah, because my secret social life is soooo well populated...")

Nebuloid and I wandered to Brunswick Street for dinner, through Fitzroy Gardens, as the light moved towards dusk. We had dinner at a Noodle House, where the waitress was sitting and knitting something unidentifiable. I mention this only because that's rather strange behaviour for a waitress, even when the restaurant isn't very busy.

As we wandered back, skies now dark and the Gardens a little daunting, we saw a couple of possums desperately trying to climb trees. Unfortunately for the possums, the trees had plastic shields wrapped around them every couple of metres. It was odd. But the possums were very cute.

The Hilton on the Park is opposite the MCG, and as we approached the lights, we were surrounded by AFL fans. Dotted amongst them, however, I could spot slightly lost looking Continuum attendees - they were the ones not wearing team colour scarves, and wearing an awful lot of black...

We got ourselves well seated for the Opening Ceremony - I found third row seats (I avoided the front row, as that would have revealed far too clearly my absolute and utter Neil Gaiman fangirl personality). The ceremony was held in a giant section of the Ballroom, and was packed out. There were lights above everyone, so the guests could see the slavering fans clearly! There was a little film running before the speech - lots of cuts from different movies/series/book covers etc that encapsulated the "speculative fiction" thrust of the convention. There was a nice spot of Dr Who goodness (have I mentioned that Christopher Eccleston is now my second favourite Doctor, and definitely the sexiest?), followed by a brief snippet of Firefly - after which there was applause and whooping. I didn't know whether that was for Dr Who or Firefly, but I like to think it was a bit of both.

The Guests of Honour took their seats on the stage, and Kirstyn McDermott, the Continuum chair, made the Opening speech. Neil was sitting to her right, and taking a good look around the audience. I got a moment of held eye contact with Neil (no, I did, really, okay!!) and Nebuloid got a Neil smile. He's such an absolutely lovely man. Sigh. And, did I mention, incredibly incredibly hot?

Anyway...moving on...
There was a cocktail party after the Opening Ceremony, where I drank a little champagne and got giggly. Nic and her friends found us, and we made our way into Ballroom 3 for the Great Debate - with Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite, Robin Hobb, Richard Harland, Kim Wilkins, Russell Kirkpatrick and moderated by Jack Dann.

Laughed? I nearly seriously injured myself.

The premise of the debate was that Man is an Unnatural Creature. On the "for" side were Kim Wilkins, Poppy Z Brite and Richard Harland. On the "against" side were Neil Gaiman, Robin Hodd and Russell Kirkpatrick. It was obvious from Jack Dann's opening speech that this debate was going to be all about the fun, and in no way serious. Grand.

Kim Wilkins opened the "For" team with the following: Man is an Unnatural Creature, because we have invented Anal Bleaching. That was the core of her argument, and it got a rousing round of laughter. Jack Dann followed that argument with a little story about farting on a date, and, well, it all kind of disintergrated from there.

Neil Gaiman opened the "Against" team with: a) He had thought he was on the For team until a little note was pushed under his door a couple of hours earlier, which meant he'd had to rethink the whole thing, b) [in stilted tones] Of course he has never suggested, and neither had any of his team, that man was anything but a natural creature, c) a suggestion for the website and d) the core of his argument, which he reached by taking the tack "Man is a Natural Creature" and searching for the many meanings of the words. He finally found the truth in one of the meanings of "Natural" which is "a natural child, born of unwed parents". Thus, he said, the argument was now "All Men are Bastards" and he was sure that everyone would agree with that. He took his seat again, to thunderous applause.

Jack Dann manfully attempted to get the debate back on the rails (did he, what? He pushed them further and further away from the rails!), whilst being constantly interrupted by Neil, who kept grabbing one of the mikes on the lecterns and interjecting many humourous asides. Mischevious man!

The debate rapidly degenerated, following Poppy's assertion that man is unnatural because society deplores and degrades homosexuality and other "abnormal" lifestyles (which was quite serious and not played for laughs). Bits I remember through the howls of laughter are: Richard Harland's impassioned pleas that man is unnatural because of the "extend your willy" spam everyone gets; comments about possum "golden showers"; more fart jokes; tussles over the microphones; and, of course, due to there being a Kiwi on the panel, jokes about sheep shagging.

When the audience had to decide which side should win, the bribery began. Neil told everyone that Robin Hobb has a photographic memory, and that she would be scanning the room, memorising faces, and anyone who didn't clap for their team would not get their books signed by him. Robin Hobb sat beside him, nodding seriously and squinting out into the audience. Neil then began throwing mints out into the audience as further bribery.

Of course, his side won, and the chocolate frogs that they got as prizes were also hurled out into the audience.

Jack Dann collapsed in exhaustion, and the audience, sides aching and faces wreathed in grins, shuffled, giggling, out into the foyer.

Because that panel had gone over time, we missed out on the Medieval Warfare panel (sorry Nebuloid!), so we drank some cocktails before the Horror Movies panel started. We sat down in the Hilton bar, which was beginning to fill up with AFL fans and members of the other convention that was being held that weekend - an (euwwww) management convention. Remember that - it may become important later.

The Horror Movies panel (thriller versus splatter) was fun - it was the last panel of the night, and everyone seemed to be winding down a bit, but lots of good questions and wacky horror film referencing fun.

Nebuloid and I decided to have a drink before bed, and I collected a wayward boy to chat with over drinks. We got down to the Hilton bar and, ohmigosh, it was mightily packed out. Nebuloid went to get drinks, and WaywardBoy and I found a standing space. Right next to, as we discovered, a table of drunken management types from the other convention. I had led us into the land of the stupid patronising bastards. Yay me.

SPB1: "So, what's your convention about?"
ZB: "SF, fantasy, horror - there's some great writers here, lots of interesting panels." Turns back to talk to WB.
SPB1: "So, what do you do at these conventions?"
ZB (now getting tetchy): "Go to aforementioned panels, meet new people, drink, get laid."
SPB1: "Half your luck! We're in management - we get laid, but we don't get to come!!"
ZB: Pointed silence.
SPB1: "So where's the swingers parties happening, then?"
ZB: "The swingers parties are Continuum members only, you're not going to get an invite."
But, oh, they do bounce back.
SPB2: "How did you get involved in science fiction and stuff?"
ZB: "My mother's a Satanist."
SPB2: Confused silence.
SPB1: "Do you play Dungeons and Dragons?"
ZB: "Oh for fuck's sake, no I bloody don't. Get a grip!"
ZB conspicuously turns back on table.
WB: "Nicely parried. Because, if they'd asked me, I would have had to say yes..."

ZB and WB are then rescued by Nebuloid, through the power of a) alcohol and b) her leading us to the part of the bar that was entirely populated by Continuum attendees. Huzzah!!

A long, drunken, and very enjoyable ramble through the conversational lanes of RPGs, Buffy, Firefly, Star Wars, tall ships and Neil Gaiman then ensued. Last drinks were called (and consumed), after which Nebuloid and I stumbled to our room, organised a room service breakfast for a ridiculously early hour of the morning, and slept, eagerly awaiting the next day of conventiony goodness.

Join me next time, for more tales from Continuum 3...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

You cannae change the laws of physics...

Or death, it seems.

James Doohan, the beloved Scotty from Star Trek: Original Series, has gone into the black.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"Lashings of ginger beer!"

I just got my copy of the Comic Strip Presents boxset - it was a lovely present to have waiting for me when I got home from Melbourne. Watched a whole bunch last night, and found myself slightly sad that my favourites were made over 20 years ago. I know that good comedy is still being made, but is it going to last the ravages of time? One can only hope...

Plus, I really had to come to terms with the fact that I'm never going to find myself part of the bustling and incredibly cool world of the alternative comedians in the early 80's. Damn you, lack of time travel capabilities!!

The box set has all of the short films, from 1982 to 1993, and also The Supergrass (which, d'oh!, I had also bought seperately). It does not, however, contain Eat the Rich, the absence of which was a great disappointment to me. That has always been one of my favourite movies, and I really hoped it would find it's way onto dvd some day. Sigh. I totally want to call my vegan cafe (when I open it *she says, in denial of the real world*) Eat the Rich, due entirely to that movie.

I watched:

The Bullshitters: Roll Out the Gunbarrel
This is where my ongoing (and faintly inexplicable) crush on Peter Richardson (he's the one in the incredibly bad curly wig) really kicked into high gear. There's nothing funnier (and thus sexier) than a man in a red leather posing pouch, cowboy boots and leather jacket running around London, desperately attempting to ensure that his bits don't get revealed in the midst of all the action. As it were.

Ah, French and Saunders. You are truly bizarre. I love this episode, even though it don't make a whole lot of sense (it makes a little more to me now that I have finally read Rebecca, but still..."It was like a giant enormous beetle!") This episode has the added bonus of Ade's ridiculous hair, and Rik playing almost straight for most of it. And again, sigh, ongoing and slightly disturbing crush on Rik Mayall.

Five Go Mad in Dorset

The first. The classic. The "you can't get any better than this ever" episode of Comic Strip Presents. I'm so glad that they set the bar so high. The satire is obvious, but unrelenting and hysterical.

Five Go Mad on Mescalin
The not quite successful followup to Five Go Mad in Dorset. Still funny and lovably nasty, just a little disjointed. But seeing Ade singing incredibly badly whilst sitting on rocks...the hysteria, it overtakes me.

Bad News Tour
What's that you say? This looks a lot like Spinal Tap? So it does....Supposedly, they were in production at the same time. Don't get me wrong, I love Spinal Tap, it's a brilliant film and is essentially the first in Christopher Guest's wonderful ensemble pseudo documentaries, but still...occasionally I wonder. I think Spider is my favourite character that Peter Richardson played.

I stopped there, not wanting to overdose. I'm so excited about this box set - there are lots of the episodes that I have never seen, or have only seen once, or have read about and really want to see. I'm absolutely looking forward to rewatching Mr Jolly Lives Next Door - "Nicholas Parsons!!!"

Given, however, that I am currently halfway through Season Seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, only on the first disc of Cowboy Bebop, and desperately waiting for my flatmate to finish Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince so that I can read it, I'm not sure I'm going to get back to Comic Strip Presents any time soon...

Monday, July 11, 2005

Fenrir walks the earth.

Fenrir, eldest child of Loki and the giantess Angrboda, is the grand and terrible wolf that, it was foreseen, would one day be responsible for destroying the world. This prophecy reached the gods, and Fenrir was caught and imprisoned. Tyr, the god of war, fed and watered Fenrir when no other would. Fenrir repaid him for this act of kindness by biting off Tyr's hand at the wrist.

As Fenrir grew and grew, the gods became more and more fearful of his power. Using their wiles, they tricked Fenrir into being chained. Such was Fenrir's strength, however, that even the strongest chain could not hold him.

Only a magic chain could fetter this monster. And so the dwarves fashioned Gleipner, a thin ribbon, from six elements: the footstep of a cat; the roots of a mountain; a woman's beard; the breath of fishes; the sinews of a bear; and a bird's spittle. Despite Gleipner's appearance, it held Fenrir fast, and the gods chained him to a rock a mile below the earth. They placed a sword in his mouth to prevent him biting.

On the day of Ragnarok, Fenrir will break free and battle the gods. It is prophesied that he will devour Odin, and that Odin's son, Vidar, will avenge his father's death by killing Fenrir.

Given all of that, I really didn't expect Fenrir to look like this:

This is Fenrir, new addition to the household of TheDarkLord. Quake in fear, puny mortals.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Bomb blasts in London. Holy shit.

All the world's media is there, because of the Olympics announcement and the opening of the G8 conference.

Everything seems so unreal. I felt this way when the September 11 attacks occured. I felt this way when I read about the ongoing war in Iraq. I felt this way when I read about the attacks on mosques in Brisbane. I felt this way when I heard about the train bombings in Madrid. I've felt this way for the last 4 years.

What the fuck are we doing? How much longer are we going to survive? Is change going to come, or more wholesale destruction?

I just can't think about this. I comprehend, but I don't understand. Everything is turning to shit, has been for years, and there's just pain and horror and death.

But there's always hope. A tiny spark of hope and life and the possibility of joy. We, as a global community, have to find a way to take this spark and make into a blazing beacon, without resorting to bombing and war and horror.

Somebody, please, tell me there's a way. Because, right now, I really don't see one. But I want to.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

When I was 29, I had a very good July...

Suddenly, I find myself in July. Which, frankly, is shaping up to be a very busy month for me. This weekend I've got a Firefly related shindig a-goin' on (I'm one of the organisers, which is scary and cool and incredibly geeky and did I mention scary?) so this week is all about getting prepped for that. Much fun should be had by all. I may even put up some photos from it, if it comes to that (though probably on my other, Fireflycentric, blog).

Then, next weekend, whirlwind flight to Melbourne for Continuum 3. I keep trying to measure how excited I am by this, my first convention, (complete with bonus Neil Gaiman!), but I think that I'm so overexcited about going that I won't realise that I've been until about a month afterwards. There's lots of fun panels, and some great sounding events - much looking forward to the Maskabalo (yay for an excuse to dress up!) Plus, did I mention the Neil Gaiman-ness of the event? I was going to buy something new and shiny for him to sign, but I thought I'd take my slightly battered copy of Smoke and Mirrors instead. Or maybe my dvd set of Neverwhere.

In some of my precious free time in Melbourne, I'm hoping to go to Vegan Wares - at the very least to ogle, perhaps to purchase some fine vegan footware. And I'm also going to try and find the bakery that sells vegan doughnuts....mmm...doughnutty goodness. Though that could be a little difficult - the journey's the thing, right?

No, actually, I'm pretty sure the doughnuts are the thing.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Because more than one blog means I'll write more often...

Yeah. Okay. That sounds like the sort of sensible plan that ain't...

However, foolish though it is, and the likelihood of imploding aside, I've set up another blog. Why? Because I want to be able to rant, rave, drool, dribble and basically get my fanaticism about Firefly out of my system through the wondrous, erm, wonder of the written word. And I want to be able to do it without alienating that part of my readership (extensive as it is. Yes, I too live in the land of Denial) which has no interest in Firefly.

Don't mean that there won't be occasional posts here about Firefly - or more specifically, Serenity - because I would really love everyone to support the movie. But I'll keep the more rabid postings (including the ones I've moved from here) over at the new blog.

Which is here, by the way.

Come on over and visit - floors are clean, there's protein in all the colours of the rainbow, and I'm paintin' some ivy and flowers to make it more homey-like.

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